The Gospel of Mark (Part Seven)


The Distinguishing Factor

By Denise Trio

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”—Mark 16:1–8 (NIV)

Someone recently said to me that all religions are the same. They consist of love and kindness, doing good to the poor, and being a good person. While all of those have value and merit, Christianity is unlike any other religion, and this resurrection narrative is a distinguishing factor.

Imagine what that Sabbath day was like for the disciples. This man that they had walked with and learned from for three years, who had promised them eternal life, who they expected to establish a kingdom here, was dead. That Sabbath day must have been so quiet and so confusing. 

We don't hear much about the disciples in this passage or the chapter before. But we see the women. Jesus' mother, Mary Magdalene, and Salome brought spices to the tomb as early as they could on Sunday morning, the day after the Sabbath. This was a traditional burial ritual to prevent the body from foul odors during decay. Their plans indicated they were not expecting Jesus to be alive.

When they got to the tomb, they were surprised to see the massive stone was rolled away. They walked inside the tomb and didn’t see Jesus' body. Instead, they saw an angel sitting to the right of where they had laid Him. “Don't be afraid!” he said, which is a very common opening line from angels (Luke 1:13, 1:30, 2:10; Matthew 28:5). Angels must be frightening creatures. It's no wonder they were trembling and bewildered! They were expecting to find Jesus' body wrapped and laying there, but instead they saw an angel.  

This angel commanded the women to go and tell His disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee, just as He said. And they did!

It’s so amazing how Jesus extended this invitation to the disciples, who had betrayed Him in His darkest hour. This is the grace of God. The disciples deserted Jesus! They didn’t deserve to be reunited with Him. But Jesus desired a relationship with them, and He demonstrated grace and forgiveness to those He loved. 

Jesus does the same thing for us. We don’t deserve and couldn’t earn His love, and yet He offers it to us anyway! 

I’ve heard it described like this: Religion is people working their way up an insurmountable mountain to know God. Christianity is Jesus coming down from the mountain for His people. 

As the modern hymn “In Christ Alone” states: 

There in the ground His body lay,

Light of the world by darkness slain.

Then bursting forth in glorious day,

Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory,

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.

For I am His and He is mine,

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Pause: Have You fully embraced the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you live in the freedom of knowing that Jesus is victorious, that sin has lost its grip on you, and that you were bought with the precious blood of Christ?

Practice: Ask God to reveal any areas where sin still has control over you. Ask Him to also show you where you might be striving or trying to earn love. Ask Him for forgiveness and repent of those sins today.

Pray: Jesus, thank You for Your death and resurrection. Thank You that You humbled Yourself and came to earth to die for my sins. Thank You that You made a way for me to know You, and all that I need to do is receive this free gift of salvation. Forgive me for my striving. I choose to live in freedom. Help me to tell others about this good news! Amen.